by Leafy Green
To have a web site you need 3 things. (1) A domain name, (2) a web server, and (3) web pages. You can have one company do all three or separate companies for each. You can do the (3) design of the pages yourself. As someone already mentioned, theoretically you can (2) maintain a server yourself, but for a single web site it is usually cheaper and easier to pay a hosting company to host your site on their server. (1) Your domain name needs to be registered through an authorized registration service and they will charge you a fee.
I could be mistaken, but I think that for dentistry, sites that don't look too slick and sophisticated, may work better as sales tools. I think many consumers know that anyone can plug their personal info into a slick-looking pre-fabricated site. A professional-looking but not particularly flashy or sophisticated site suggests caring, personal, professional service. That said, the site should be attractive, function properly, and explanatory language should be clear, and it should be free of errors in grammar and spelling. Your print media ad and web ads (and any other media) should work "synergistically" rather than independently. You definitly don't want one of those sites that are slick on the surface, but where people find that many links are leading to pages that say little more than "under construction."
In short: I think content works better than glitz.
Unless you have a special service that attracts people from outside your area, because they can't find it in their own area, there would seem to be little need for a world-wide web presence. You probably will want a web site as auxiliary advertising, and as a very inexpensive way to get name recognition and logo recognition across several forms of media — which I think develops synergy. And I think a presence on the internet helps characterize your practice as technologically up-to-date, even if it isn't your primary source of patients or a source of patients from all over the world.
Hosting will cost you about $5 to $20 per month, unless your traffic gets very high (many gigabytes), in which case the hosting company will inform you, and offer to continue you site if you agree to allow them to add on more dollars per month for increased bandwith, or unless your site takes up huge number of megabytes of disk space, because you have, say, numerous video files. Things like message boards may not take up as much room as you think. It is those media files that make web sites require extra disk space and perhaps extra cost.
The fees for designing your site can vary widely, as can any fees the designer charges for monthly maintence. If no monthly maintence is done, there shouldn't be any fee. If lots of new pages are created and uploaded, then the fee should be according to the amount of work done and how much the designer is in demand.
There are lots of good designers who are not in high demand and therefore don't charge a huge amount. Some will charge little more, per page of typeset material, than you would pay to a typist or typesetter. Others will insist that some special artistic ability makes them more in demand and more expensive. Look at their portfolio and decide if they are worth the money.
You may have to pay a little more if you have interactive features that require either tweaking of public-domain programs, off-the-shelf programs, or custom programming. Things like forms, message boards, and shopping carts, can be either public domain and free, off-the-shelf for various fees, customized public domain programs, or new programs written from scratch. Even free public domain programs or low-cost off-the-shelf programs will need to be set up to work with your web site. For example a web site developer may charge $75 or so to set up a public-domain message board, more to customize it with your logo, or do customization of its appearance.
A word on search engine submissions. Be careful about companies that claim they can get you higher ranking on search engines. While careful adjustment, in your "head" section, of the meta name="Description" code and your meta name="keywords" code, can indeed help with search engine ranking, company's claims about how well they do this job for can be quite exaggerated. I have found that careful choice of description and keyword, and waiting a week or so to see if changes in these cause a higher ranking, and then some more tweaking, can help, but it can take a long time to see the results of small changes. See google's help page on the subject. The best thing you can do to increase your ranking is to get links to your site from other sites. If you have to pay a site that draws many visitors, to put up a link to your site, you may want to do that.
These days, it may not be necessary to submit your site's domain name to search engines. If there is one link to your site, on one site, anywhere, the search engines will find your site, "crawl" it, and index it. You can verify this by looking in your site's log file. It will show numerous visits from various search engine robots, that somehow found your site, even tho you did not submit your site to them. You may want to submit your site to specialized "directories." These are different than search engines. Usually a real person will look over your site and make a decision as to whether their directory should include it. Google has one, in addition to its search engine. So does yahoo.
Page last updated 2006 April 19